In the first few weeks of the pandemic in March of 2020, just 4.6% of Minnesota students were homeschooled, according to U.S. Census data. That number more than doubled to 9.7% by October of 2020.
Some Minnesota residents created “micro” or “mini” schools, hiring certified teachers and creating a space for groups of students to learn outside of the traditional public school.
However, it appears the rise in homeschooling rates in Minnesota isn’t something worth addressing by Gov. Tim Walz. Just last week, he reportedly refused to meet with school choice advocates at the capitol, scheduling his own press conference just 15 minutes after theirs and moving his microphone so school choice advocates wouldn’t appear in the camera shot.
The rise in homeschooling in Minnesota comes as data surrounding achievement gaps sheds light on the disastrous effects COVID-19 has had on education. Students returned to the 2020 school year with less than 50% of their typical achievement gains.
Some Minnesota teachers saw an extensive drop in their class attendance rates in the last year. Sizi Goyah, a teacher at Brooklyn Center High School, had a 70% drop in his class attendance. From 95% to 20% attendance, the beginning of the pandemic proved to be especially harsh for his class.
Additionally, the Minnesota Department of Public Education saw a 2% decrease in public school enrollment between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years, which equates to about 17,000 students.
In the midst of this, the Minnesota Department of Education is re-drafting their social studies standards with the goal of creating “culturally affirming” standards. They intend to add education on LGBTQ history, tribal history, systemic racism, and gender identity. The first draft makes no mention of the Holocaust, the Pledge of Allegiance, or the American flag.
Megan Olson is a 2020 graduate of the University of Minnesota with degrees in political science and history. She works in public affairs in addition to serving on the Legislative Advisory Council for School District 196. She is also on the school board for FIT academy, a charter school in Apple Valley.